Using My Inside Voice

With two Memphis Restaurant Guides under my belt, I've learned a few things when it comes to putting this issue together.

One, I know that all day, every day, for weeks, I'm going to be talking about food. Writing about food. Poring over gorgeous photos of food. I will stay hungry all day, every day, for weeks. I will snack obsessively, and will need to pull out my "big girl" jeans during this production cycle.

Two, I will be reminded of more than a handful of local eateries I've neglected for far too long, and make reservations. I will try new dishes while there, and remind everyone who'll listen to pay certain places a visit.

And three, I'll remember the game. The things-I-think-in-a-restaurant-but-don't-say game, invented on a trip to Los Angeles. A few examples:

Server: Are you familiar with how our menu works?

Inner voice: I'll guess it goes something like this: I order. Kitchen cooks it. You bring it. How far off am I?

Said: Yes, thanks for asking.

Server: You must be really hungry!

Inner voice: Are you judging me? What if I have a tapeworm and you've just made me feel bad about it? What are you, a nutritionist? Rude! People outside of this crazy town eat, you know.

Said: (shamefully) I'm sure I'll need a box.

* I assure you, I will not.

Server: Anyone care for dessert?

Inner voice: Oh please please please someone say something. Come on! Someone has got to be jonesing for chocolate too. Just admit it. The server is clearly horrified by the amount of food I've already consumed and I'm too embarrassed to do it myself.

Said: I guess not. Thank you, though.

Sometimes, unfortunately, the game works just as well here at home.

Dining companion: Do you just want to split the check 50/50?

Inner voice: You cannot possibly be serious. I had iced tea and a salad. You had swordfish and Veuve Clicquot. If you proceed down this path, we will never darken a restaurant door together again.

Said: Sure. I guess that's fair.

Dining companion: Here's my part of the tip.

Inner voice: That's perfect . . . if we had eaten this meal in 1954. Let me get another bill out of my wallet. This server has to eat too, you know.

Said: That's great.

Dining companion to a random server, not our own: Um, hello! WHERE IS OUR CHECK?

Inner voice: Clearly you have never worked in a restaurant before. Oh, fantastic. I am being mentally associated with you by the entire wait staff. You are a terrible human. I am going to have to avoid this place for at least three months now.

Said: I'm sure it's on the way. Shall we have some coffee? Decaf for you?

Occasional lapses of judgment in dinner companions aside, hitting the town for a meal out is a perfect way to spend an evening, in my book. Our restaurant scene gets more exciting by the month, whether that means a new tacqueria on Summer or a swanky new addition downtown. Sure, L.A. and other bigger cities have great restaurants, but so do we. And at ours, dinner is served without the side of pretension. You've gotta love it.

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